SXSW 2022 Review: Linoleum

Year: 2022

Runtime: 101 minutes

Writer/Director: Colin West

Cast: Jim Gaffigan, Rhea Seehorn, Tony Shaloub, Gabriel Rush, Amy Hargreaves, Michael Ian Black, Twinkle Burke, Katelyn Nacon, Elisabeth Henry, Roger Hendrickson

By Joan Amenn

Linoleum is a surface consisting of multiple compressed layers of linseed oil and sawdust, among other things. This might seem like a completely irrelevant title for this film but when you think about it more, it’ll start to make sense. And you will be thinking about this haunting film long after you see it. It is an astonishingly well executed emotional journey for only the second feature film by director Colin West.

Jim Gaffigan plays the host of a children’s educational program that focuses on science. One might even refer to him as a …. science guy. His wife Erin (Rhea Seehorn) works at the local Air and Space Museum. Neither are living the lives they once dreamed of and it has taken a toll on their marriage and family. Gaffigan is essentially playing his comedic persona as a somewhat goofy dad for most of the film but he does know how to channel middle aged disillusion very well. Seehorn is also playing a similar role as she does in “Better Call Saul” as a voice of reason to a talented but self-destructive partner. However, she too has flashes of real poignancy when she reluctantly admits her own disappointments with how her career has panned out.

Surreal occurrences contrast jarringly with the soul crushing monotony of the middle-class lives of the couple who are in the process of divorcing. West is very clever in unspooling little hints of what is actually going on even while he stages startling events that leave your mouth open, such as when a car literally falls from the sky. That’s not all that comes crashing down but there will be no spoilers here. Suffice to say, you need to see “Linoleum” (2022) to truly experience its trippy plot that buzzes around in your mind and doesn’t let go.

Fun facts of grade school physics and childhood trauma that echoes into adulthood all mesh somewhat incongruously together in a film that is tightly paced and smartly edited to leave the viewer scratching their heads at the end credits, but in a good way. You may feel as if you fell down a rabbit hole but keep going, because “Linoleum” is ultimately a reflection on life and our inability to completely protect those we love from the random and unpredictable. West wrote the script as well as directed and is to be congratulated on his second feature being recognized with a nomination for the Grand Jury Award from SXSW this year. He is someone to look out for with his future projects, which will hopefully be as personal and unique as this one.

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